Writing Posts with Panache

We are trained to spot phonies. Like Pod People, we can easily point out an impostor in the group and properly ostracize them for daring to enter our communities. The same, although not as dramatically as pointing and screeching, happens in social media. Posts that seem like just a straight-up sales pitch get ignored while ones that are just as salesy slip into our front pages. It’s due to content and audience (as discussed in the last post). 

Writing for marketing is a skill in its own. Grammar is one thing, but finding the right tone and buzzwords is a hunt that can never end. Posts need to be trendy, heartfelt, smart, touching, clever, helpful, inspiring, cool, and truthful. This post is going to cover what to write in posts.

Although my tips have to be vague enough to cover multi-platforms, as you research and learn your main platforms, you will better your writing.  

Are you talking to me?
When writing posts, consider your audience. I may sound like a broken record, but marketing is all about singling out our audience and finding the write message to get them to buy into our pitch. Think about their education, their favorite words, what they think is cool. Most of all, everyone wants authenticity. We want to buy from people who make us feel good about giving our money to.

Picture vs. Video vs. Words
A picture speaks 1000 words… but a video can tell an entire novel. And sometimes we don’t have time or energy to deal with either, so a few words are nice. Audience and current posting climate will dictate which media to go with. Pictures are amazing if they are done well and effectively promote the material without coming off as salesman cheese. Videos are great - but consider time and sound. The effective time window on social media is probably less than 8 seconds. We scroll fast, so you got to capture your audience before the first 8 seconds before they move on. Sound is also important that it needs to be just as effective with or without. I often am finding myself browsing in public where I don’t want to bother people with video noise, captions help a lot with this.

Let me creep into your searches
SEO is a huge thing to think about whenever you’re writing a post. Choose words that will make you climb the SEO charts. Think about what how you would best be found from a stranger looking for someone just like you. For example, I am a Baton Rouge Graphic Designer and Marketing Strategist. I handle all types of clients, but my favorites are creative entrepreneurs. I’ve nailed down that they’re the clients I most want to work with. So, the best way to creep into their searches is by formulating sentences that might show up in their searches. They may be looking for branding help or creating a business identity. Or for example, if they’re on this post, they were looking for social media business strategies or help with post writing. How I would word my social media posts would be to make sure I include things like “Stuck with writing content for your business's social media? Read my latest post that really helps creative entrepreneurs get out of the marketing rut.” Boom, three hits.

As you are upping your posting game, you may start to question your motives of what you’re going to post and why. Well, in my next post, that is exactly what I’m going to talk about!

Being a Social Butterfly

Social media is this amazing new frontier of marketing that we’ve never really experienced before. Hardest of all, it changes frequently. Throughout my career of marketing, I’ve paid close attention to where people post and why it works (or doesn’t).

In this next series of blog posts, yay - series are popular!, I’m going to talk all about social media marketing. Breaking down the where, what, and why of messaging to hopefully help you save time and energy trying to “do it all”.

My first message as a business on social media was pitiful. It was random photos of work I had done on the only social media platform I knew, Facebook. I had no intention or message to say, just “Here, look!”. I can honestly say I was just looking for some confidence building responses, but I mainly got ignored. I learned through some frustration that those on Facebook weren’t interested in my work, not because I sucked, but because they were the wrong audience (looking back, I might’ve sucked a little).

So, let’s talk about choosing where your audience is. I’ve discovered a lot of businesses try to spread themselves everywhere. It’s true if you’re playing the numbers game, that the more places you are, the more you might be seen. But being seen won’t convert to clicks and clients. Although I still keep my business’s Facebook alive, I do not pour myself into it. Below are a few tips in determining which social media outlet your business will thrive on.

Research
New platforms pop up faster than we can keep up with… and that’s both a good and bad thing. Research each social media type and what kind of businesses they seem to be best suited for. Remember, just because it may be a platform you’re familiar with, doesn’t mean it’s a good platform for your business (hence my Fb fiasco).

Keep in mind the audience's feelings toward the platform itself. Facebook, for example, has gone from a social networking site to a sharing site - and this change has gradually happened over the past few years. Research the age groups using which platform. In my downloadable guide, I breakdown which audience gravitates to which platform.

Consolidate
It is the first mistake of a business to try and be everywhere at once. I will discuss in my next post the sins of posting the same thing all over the internet, but here we will just talk about the energy it wastes. If you are using multi-platforms (and it totally works for some businesses), be sure that these platforms are going to work the best to tell your story. Do not waste energy trying to be everywhere at once. Sure, programs like Hoot Suite help you manage, but those posts still have to be planned and thought out. Stick to your audience’s watering hole.

Plan
To get the best out of your social media implementation - plan out your posts! Rather than posting when the vision strikes, make a plan for the entire week (or month if you’re really on your game). Planning takes a little time, but my, will it help you feel a lot better knowing everything is ready to go. I also have a little social media monthly planner available for FREE download!

In my next post I am going to go more in depth about the What of posting, but first here’s a little homework if you’re game!

Comment your top 3 favorite social media platforms, and then find at least one business that you think totally rocks that platform. This will help you find a goal or emulation point, and we can totally discuss!

TL;DR - I kind of skipped everything

Admit it, you glanced at an email you meant to read but had to set your phone down to attend real life. In this day and age of notifications, events, social media, games and actual work, even the strongest of us can have technological ADD. It's hard because so many people are vying for our attention! 

In this third installment of the Email Breakdown I am talking about how to best convey your message - simply and quickly. 

Blog posts are great for writing that miniature novel, but emails need to short and to the point. If I can't read your intention in the first three lines, rewrite it. When writing emails for clients I tend to have redundant information. I put the same link in three places in three ways. Why? Because I have no idea how far someone is going to get, and I'm not betting they are going to make it to the bottom. 

This is a Footer, but illustrates that I doubt you read any of that. 

This is a Footer, but illustrates that I doubt you read any of that. 

Email Outline

The best way to focus your story is to break it down into a few sentences. If you ever wrote essays in school this might sound familiar. 

Intro.

Topic Sentence. 

Body Sentence.

Closing. 

Intro. Difference between an essay and an email is the Intro doesn't even have to be words. It can be an image, a "Hey So and So". Just something to not cold pitch from the moment they walk in the door. 

The Topic Sentence is your meat. What is the entire purpose of this email? Are you having a sale? Are you addressing a solution to a pain point? Speak and they will come. Make sure you give them a Call to Action to get involved in what you want. 

Body Sentence. This something you can take or leave. It's nice to continue the narrative, but if enough is said in the Topic Sentence you can move on to Closing. 

Closing. You better Call to Action huge here. It's the last chance you get them before the archive this email for good. And if you did your job right they had to pass like 4 CTAs before they got to this last one. I like to make the CTA at the bottom a button because it stands out and makes them look at it. 

Why TL;DR? Because if your email is too wordy, they are going to mentally say "Too Long, Didn't Read." 

Email Imagery - Make them look twice

As the promised second part of the Email Breakdown series, I am going to talk about the images (and when to not have them). When creating marketing emails you can go two routes: personalized text based emails or generic, but glamorous imagery. They both can work, but you got to learn which to use when. 

Text-Based Emails

As someone who tends to fixate on beautiful images, my gut reaction to "text-based" is hesitation. I mean, with all the stunning images and graphics that can populate an email why on earth do you want to use just text? Because it's unexpected and because it's personal. 

When writing personal emails you get to use the variable tags your email list provides. If you gathered intel on your customer you can address them by their first name, mention their last products bought or discuss special going on in their state. My favorite about text based email is it looks written personally by you. We're so used to flashy gimmickry by stores that a text-based email almost comes across like a handwritten letter. 

Ex:

Shh [First Name], please don't tell!

I am hosting this exclusive live webinar on Social Media templates next week just for [State], which is perfect because I really want to meet you! 

Please click below to sign up for the webinar [link], and feel free to catch up with my latest post by visiting my blog [link]. 

And trust me, there's no sales pitch at the end. I just want to help out fellow small businesses! 

May your stars continue to align, 

Helena Williams

Laniebird Designs 

Imagery Email

So what makes an image heavy email work? I'll run down a list, because it's a few things you need to keep in your mental cheat sheet. 

1. Call to Actions 

Calltoactionexample

Whether it be buttons or the whole image, make sure you have a place for them to click. And what better than the bright, beautiful image you made? 

2. Header Image 

headerexample

It's like the cover to your book, a header image can bring them in and present to them the context of the rest of the email. People tend to not scroll when they first go through emails. That first 1/4 of the page better give them everything they need to know right away. Post your most blatant message there. 

3. Slow Your Sizing Roll

We are in a world of bigger is better when it comes to image quality. In emails it is not true. An email takes a while to load, and a huge image (even resized to a smaller size) will slow that process down. Also the bigger the file size of the email, the more likely it will be sent to spam. So save those pixels for your website. 

4. GIFS POP

gifexample.gif

Even though we just talked about sizing, GIFS are the exception. Creating a two-three image slide show of your specials is like a cheating way of getting a person's attention. But still keep in mind the size, as it will cause slow loading and eat phone data. 

 

I hope this helps when crafting your next email's images! Feel free to email me with any questions or to look over your next email campaign! 

The Webpage Overload

I can admit it, web design is overwhelming, and that's coming from someone who obsesses over amazing websites. Coding, forms, text, photos, mock-ups, and if you’re crazy advanced, video content, takes a lot of time and forethought to execute. Before you become overwhelmed at the thought of a website (or upgrade your current one) I will break it down into manageable chunks for you.

User experience

You know your business inside and out, but a potential client does not. Just imagine they finally popped into your site home page. What next? Plan a strategic end goal with Call to Actions and super obvious navigation.

Best Tips:

List your top 5 places to visit in your website (for example):

Store/Portfolio

Blog

About Me

Contact

Copywriting beforehand

Writing your content before you open your web page builder will help you sort out your thoughts and proof so much better. What I tell my clients to do is to give themselves homework of writing each section of their navigation.

Best Tips:

Make an outline of the most important aspects visitors need to learn about your business. Keep this as a guide to weave throughout your text. A Mission Statement or motto can be helpful. Also keep in mind working in certain wording can help raise up your SEO rankings.

Mock-ups

Before I even open Squarespace (my favorite builder), I open Illustrator. If you haven’t collected inspiration beforehand, this is a great time to do so. Gather images and colors (hopefully you’ve already established your Branding) that you want represented in your site. This also creates a good opportunity to figure out what graphics you’ll need.

Best Tips:

Consistency is key. Simplicity is king. You may think adding all the bells and whistles will make your page stand out, but it can clutter and confuse potential clients. They don’t know where to look first. You can even create a User Guide from this. User Guide: Looking at a screenshot of your web page mock-up, map the travel of your visitor. How many clicks do they need to get to where you want them to go? Can we cut that down?  Where can we stick little hints of CTA or images to draw the user to the desired final location?


The more you dive into your website, the more you’ll be able to solidify your business standing. You’ll be confronted with decisions to make, and if your branding or marketing message isn’t clear, it’ll show. 

Keep it simple

So it’s really true, simplicity is amazing. Our gut instinct might be that a simple life or idea is too boring, but in all honesty, it allows focus on the most important matters. When I entered the design world the early 2000s were still kicking around. I was young and thought I should use all the features I knew! Watercolor texture here, clip art of a rose there, and so on until I’ve made less of a logo and more of a mess. Toning it down is A LOT harder than it looks.

As I’ve grown into my niche, I’ve adopted a desire to use simplicity to its full capacity. How far can I use the bones of a design to effectively tell its story?

image.jpg

One such design that really was as simple as a font choice but I adored once it was finished was “14 for All.” A simple logo and a simple phrase with maximum impact. When all the frills of a design are taken away and it’s just plastered there plain as day – you may get more questions than assumptions. Seeing a shirt or a sticker or a bag with a simple square and text reading, “14 for All” SHOULD leave you guessing.

 

image.jpg

 14 for All is a local group with a passion for activism and community outreach. After the catastrophes of Alton Sterling and the Baton Rouge police shootings, we were left with a community in shambles. Two entrepreneurs with equally gigantic hearts needed a simple design to use for their marketing products. And I knew I had to help. 14 for All takes the 14th Amendment and brings reaffirms its importance. Everyone know what the 1st and 2nd amendments are, but we sometimes forget about the 14th. If you were born in the United States, no matter your race, class, or creed – you are a citizen of the United States, and as a citizen you have all the same rights as every citizen around you. Or at least, that’s what the intention was. 14 for All wants to raise awareness so that the intention is less of an idea and more of a reality – and I wanted to help.

Clean, simple, and solid describe the image I put together for them. Easily worn by any gender or age, this versatile look encapsulates a time where we need to focus on what’s most important.

This is too crazy to be happening

I've been working towards this moment for a very long time. When I started designing, it really was just to make things I wanted. I was young, and more distressingly, poor. I loved art, but I couldn't afford to enjoy other's works, so I made my own. Then it branched off into helping local non-profits. They were the most accepting of this young's pup shot at graphic design dreams and I felt great sharing my work with my city.

Now, I have clients. Not just any clients, my dream clients.

If you haven't delved into Designing Your Dream Client (available for download in my Trove), a dream client is someone who you would want most of all to be your patron. The peanut butter to my Graphic Design/Marketing jelly, the folks who I really swoon after, are Local-Creative Entrepreneurs. I want to help those folks with fresh ideas and fresh starts to reinvigorate Baton Rouge, LA (and surrounding areas).

And today I realized something, I've had my dream clients for a while now and they are thanking me. Like, what? This is too crazy to be happening.

The road to get here was totally a maze. I had ups and downs, disappointments and just crazy happenstances. Most of all, I've made a lot of new friends.


My most recent project was helping a startup magazine launch. Behind Second Lines is the brain child of Nicole Sergent. She has been diving into the music scene since living in Houston, but after recently moving to Baton Rouge, wanted to devote a music magazine to local and unheard of acts. She's my dream client.

Our collaboration:

Nicole was buzzing with ideas, and couldn't find a place to focus for her branding. I came in and helped her solidify her ideas and get something down on paper.

The whole process of getting a logo designed with this talented artist was so easy and smooth.[Helena] ensured my needs were met, assisted me in branding, and proved to be one of the most attentive designers I’ve worked with.
— Nicole

We chatted for over an hour, not just about her future magazine, but about what she loves and hates. Getting to know my client really helps me know what to present you with. A week later I presented her with a few mock ups. She wanted it clean but a pop of color. We wanted that pop to be RED. I blended the geometrics of soundwave lines with beauty of cursive lettering to create the lower portion of the logo, with a strong, red BEHIND behind it (a play on the word)! I wanted something that could stand out and read well horizontally, but as well as establish a secondary logo to be used where horizontal space is limited.

Behind Second Lines launched this month and it's already off to a rolling start. Check out their website (and subscribe if you love music). Their site includes playlists, reviews, tech info, anything and everything in between about music.